6 Degrees of Separation

Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘Second Place’ to ‘Tarry Flynn’

It’s the first Saturday of the month, which means it’s time to participate in Six Degrees of Separation (check out Kate’s blog to find out the “rules” and how to participate).

This month the starting book is…

‘Second Place’ by Rachel Cusk (2021)

Now, I don’t think it’s a secret, but I do not get on with Ms Cusk, having read two of her books in the past, so no surprise that I haven’t read this one and have no interest in doing so, Booker prize-listing or not. I understand it’s a novel about art, so I am going to link to…

‘Night Blue’ by Angela O’Keeffe (2021)

This wonderfully inventive Australian novella is about Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles, one of the most expensive paintings ever acquired by the Australian Government, and is narrated by the painting itself. I told you it was inventive!

Another book about art (and with ‘blue’ in the title) is…

‘The Blue Guitar’ by John Banville (2015)

This rather witty story is about an Irish artist by the name of Oliver Orme who conducts an affair with his best friend’s wife. It’s told from Oliver’s point of view and written in a deliciously pompous voice by a middle-aged man who has a penchant for petty thievery.

Another story about a badly behaved man carrying out an affair is…

‘A Very Scotch Affair’ by Robin Jenkins (1968)

In this classic Scottish novel, a man stuck in a miserable marriage decides to leave his wife even though she’s been diagnosed with cancer. He runs off with his lover and leaves a trail of devastation in his wake. It sounds grim, but it’s actually quite witty — and the reader knows from the start that the man is a total cad and not deserving of our sympathy.

Another novel about a cad is…

‘The Ginger Man’ by JP Donleavy (1955)

In this classic Irish novel set in Dublin, we meet Sebastian Dangerfield, a shameless boozer and womaniser, who misbehaves at every opportunity even though he has a wife and infant child at home. He is the kind of character a reader loves to hate. It’s an enormously fun, if occasionally shocking and ribald, read. It was banned in Ireland for many years.

Another book banned by the Irish Censorship Board is…

The Pilgrimage by John Broderick

‘The Pilgrimage’ by John Broderick (1961)

This gripping novel set in the 1950s is about a fine upstanding church-going woman who has a secret life: she seeks out casual encounters with strange men and has an affair with her husband’s young nephew. It’s a very dark book, one that explores what happens to ordinary men and women when the Catholic Church tries to control sex and sexuality.

Another book that revolves around the Catholic Church’s control of every aspect of Irish life…

Tarry Flynn

‘Tarry Flynn’ by Patrick Kavanagh (1948)

This is actually a rather charming and often hilarious story about a bachelor farmer in rural Ireland in the 1930s and the pressure he feels to get married and settle down when he’s really not that interested. The local priest, on the other hand, is so worried that the rural area in which the story is set is “in danger of boiling over in wild orgies of lust” that he organises a special Mission to warn parishioners about the sin of sex outside of marriage. But the Mission attracts lots of young women, of marriageable age, so the priest’s plan kind of backfires…

So that’s this month’s #6Degrees: from a literary novel about art to a gentle comedy about an Irish farmer via tales about affairs, men behaving badly and Holy Catholic Ireland.

Have you read any of these books? 

Please note, you can see all my other Six Degrees of Separation contributions here.

19 thoughts on “Six Degrees of Separation: From ‘Second Place’ to ‘Tarry Flynn’”

  1. You’ve chosen two books I really liked: Night Blue and The Guitar. I like the sound of ‘Tarry Flynn’ by Patrick Kavanagh, it’s when I read a comic novel that I realise how much I like them but how hard the good ones are to find.


    1. Well, Tarry Flynn is more a rural novel than a comedy, but it has moments that are blackly comic in it. It’s gentle and charming and beautifully written – no surprise given Kavanagh is better known as a poet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not having read Cusk yet, I wasn’t really aware of your not “getting on well” with her.

    So, let’s move on. I enjoyed your links, and they are so beautifully set out! Of these, the first two and the last interest me the most. I do like Banville, and the O’Keeffe’s book caught my attention when it came out. Like Lisa, I do like a good comic novel. And heaven knows, any of us need a laugh now.


    1. I had to read two Cusk novels when they were shortlisted for the Giller Prize in 2015 and 2016. She writes beautifully, by which I mean her prose is very easy to read, but I’m not fond of her subjects/topics and the passivity of her characters.

      Tarry Flynn is a lovely book about rural Ireland from a bygone era and has some very comic moments in it, but it’s heartbreaking in places, too. Kavanagh is better known as a poet so his prose is gorgeous and lyrical. I think this is his only novel.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha. That’s what I thought too, but somehow the painting telling its own story is very well done – you actually kind of forget it’s a painting narrating the story because you get so immersed in it.

      It sounds like everyone is intrigued by ‘Tarry Flynn’… it does deserve a wide audience. I think this one was banned by the Irish censors, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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